Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Downpours and erosion affect houses at riverbank


Heavy downpours the last few days sent shivers down the spine of Zainuddin Binbang. Somehow, he knew that the worst was coming. Looking across the river, Zainuddin could see the construction works for a new bridge, which is part of the flyover project along Putatan-Kepayan Road, actively taking place. Part of the river was covered with soil to allow the construction company’s heavy machineries to do piling, but that had impeded the water flow, which was slowly eroding the riverbank along Kampung Muhibbah Lama in Petagas, Putatan. “The erosion was like a ticking bomb. The water currents had slowly eroded and caused a small section of soil at the corner of the next door’s kitchen to cave in. I knew it was just about time that my 32-foot kitchen and bathroom would collapse,” said the 39-year-old Zainuddin, who had been staying in the house for the last 10 years. True enough, at 7am yesterday, the concrete built bathroom collapsed, followed by the kitchen about half an hour later amidst the downpours which also caused flash floods elsewhere in the City and outskirts. “I was prepared for the worst and knew this was going to happen. Worried for my family’s safety, I sent my wife and eight children to stay with my father-in-law, while I stayed back for any eventuality. “We had contacted the Village Development and Security Committee and they in turn had notified the construction company about the bad effects of the erosion. But somehow, our grouses had fallen on deaf ears. “I was so worried about my house and could not get to sleep the whole night. I just sat and waited for the worst to come,” he said. They had exhausted all efforts to draw attention to their plight and predicament, which was by far his worst experience, according to him. “We had gone through floods before and compared to the 1996 Storm Greg incident, this was the worst. Now my kitchen is gone, we have no food left.,. I had just bought our food supplies recently,” said Zainuddin, who is a barber. The destructive erosion had affected at least three houses built near the river. Sudin Ahmat, 43, who was born and bred in the village also agreed that this was his worst experience. “Things happened. I do not want to say much but hope the relevant authorities and would do something to help us,” he said. His younger sister, Rina, 40, recalled that the river used to be clean and safe. “We used to jump into the river to bathe. It was smaller before but the river has now become wider and dirty ... it is no longer safe,” she related. She said they had lodged a police report over the contractor’s, action for covering part of the river to carry out its construction works. “For many years, we have also requested the authorities to build retaining walls along the riverbank to prevent erosion, but this has yet to be done. We hope this incident would finally send a message to the authorities concerned. “Honestly, we are not against any development as it would also benefit us somehow. But we just hope that while actively carrying out the development projects, the welfare of the people should not be neglected,” she stressed. Putatan Member of Parliament, Datuk Marcus Mojigoh, who visited the site said an emergency meeting was called immediately to discuss matters pertaining to the problem, yesterday. “I have sat with the District Officer and a representative from the construction company. The company has removed the pile of soil from the river to allow the water to flow unimpeded. They have also agreed to compensate, whether to reconstruct the damaged houses or in monetary terms. “Secondly, we are also looking at building embankment on the riparian reserve. Actually these houses were not supposed to be built by the riverbank as it is within the river reserve, which is meant to allow erosion. But since there are houses involved, and things had happened, we will try our best to help the victims,” he said. On the requests for retaining walls, Mojigoh said he had written to the relevant ministry but to date, it was still considered as low priority. “After all, it was supposed to be a river reserve and there should be no structure built on it,” he said.